Found funds end MCSEC budget crisis for now

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Instead of more than a $1 million deficit at the end of this year, the Marion County Special Education Cooperative Board is looking at a cash carryover of more than $325,000, according to information presented at a special meeting Thursday in Hills?boro.

Based on information that the co-op would be more than $1 million in the red, MCSEC board members were considering selling its building in Marion and cutting more than $700,000 in salaries for the 2010-11 school year.

In a letter to the special education staff following Thursday?s meeting, Deb Geis, MCSEC board chairperson, wrote that while further action by the Kansas Legislature this spring could affect funding in the 2010-11 school year, staff cuts proposed earlier this year would not need to be as severe.

Geis further stated that Chris Cezar, MCSEC executive director, would be personally contacting each teacher previously contacted about loss of their position.

During the Thursday?s meeting, Cezar revisited some of the earlier calculations and, with minor differences, agreed with the recent findings of Jerry Hinerman, board clerk for USD 410, who had reviewed the budget numbers on his own.

Once the MCSEC board reviewed the new information, it moved into an executive session to discuss personnel matters.

A total of five executive sessions were called, totaling one hour and 25 minutes.

Superintendents meet

When the county?s five school superintendents learned the cooperative would need to cut staff substantially and sell the building it recently acquired in Marion, USD 410 Superintendent Steve Noble asked the other four superintendents in the co-op to meet with Geis.

The reason for that meeting, said Rex Watson, Peabody-Burns superintendent, was to consider a plan in which USD 410 would host the co-op in the future, making it no longer an interlocal agency, but overseen by a single district.

In Noble?s efforts to prepare for this type of scenario, he asked Hinerman to go to review the co-op?s financial documents.

Hinerman?s task, Watson told his board members, was to determine if it would financially feasible for special-education services to be provided through a host district rather than a separate entity, as it exists today.

Watson said not many of the superintendents had much of interest in a countywide cooperative hosted by one district.

Advantages could be eliminating some salaries, he said, but disadvantages included losing representation on the co-op board.

Differing numbers

During his review, Hinerman put together spread sheets, first reviewing the staffing for the cooperative.

From this list, Watson said, Hinerman suggested a possible fiscal year staffing, incorporating all paraprofessionals, teachers, physical and occupational therapists and more.

If Hillsboro?s district were to take over the special education program, all employees would be updated to fit Hillsboro?s salary schedule. That increase, Hinerman projected, would be about $40,000.

Hiner?man then went through all MCSEC budget line items, Watson told his board an April 8 special meeting.

For example, $1 million was budgeted for certified salaries in the 2009-10 year. Hinerman looked at how much has actually been spent and added 30 percent to allow for April, May and June.

?He then projected out where we would end the year at,? Watson said. According to Hinerman?s spread sheets, in that budget line item, the coop is projected to spend $924,144, which means a surplus of $75,856 in that particular fund.

Watson reviewed with his board members each of the line items dealing with substitute teachers, categorical aid, catastrophic aid, state and federal monies

?With total revenue at $4,030,641 and expenditures projected at $3,980,000,? Watson said, ?what you have been told has been beginning cash balance is $229,000 and that has been inaccurate.?

According to Hinerman?s calculations, the district will end the year with $327,000 unspent.

In addition, Watson said, Hinerman?s calculations continue to show the cooperative in the black into 2012.

?We regret distress caused to our staff and their families due to this financial uncertainty,? Geis stated in her April 9 letter to the special education staff.

?We believe that together we can now continue to move forward in providing the special education services our students in Marion County need and deserve.?

The representative from each of the five school districts?Centre, Peabody-Burns, Marion-Florence, Hillsboro-Lehigh-Durham and Goessel, reported?would be reporting back to their home districts at their April 12 school board meetings.

The next meeting of the MCSEC board is Monday, April 19.

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